Help me set up a family PC
December 3, 2011 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Help me set up a family PC

I'm setting up my laptop to give to my brother and his family for a computer to replace their dying one. I've never set up a computer for a family before, and am kind of lost of what software I should install for them. I already have Microsoft Office, Photoscape, AVG, videoLAN, Itunes, TightVNC, and the basic set up done to the computer. There are different profiles for each user as well.

Does anyone have a recommendation for other software to install for the users being 2 nieces (12,6), my brother and his wife? They are not technical, so I need to do the maintenance. Anything to make this a super friendly family computer, educational software, or can't miss software would be appreciated.
posted by lpcxa0 to Technology (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1. Use to install all the basic stuff.

2. Since you'll be doing maintenance, install LogMeIn or something similar so you can easily connect and troubleshoot remotely.

3. Since the kids are so young, you should probably talk to your brother and his wife about some sort of web monitoring or blocking. Maybe a setting that blocks all Internet access between 11pm and 6am, for example.
posted by amitai at 5:32 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Use a version of Windows that has account control. Every person has their own account and none of them gets administrator privilege.

Or if there's only one account shared, make sure that it doesn't have administrator privilege.

Install Microsoft Security Essentials.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:00 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Chocolate Pickle is absolutely spot-on about not handing out administrative privileges to untrained users. If you're going to be family technical support, letting your users install their own software unsupervised is making a rod for your own back. At least until you get the the point of being able to trust them not to fall for fake AV scams, you're better off requiring them to call you to set up a VNC session any time they want their computer to do something new.

I don't trust any VNC implementation I've ever seen to do encryption right. What I do for people I offer remote support to is set their VNC server (I use UltraVNC, but I expect TightVNC can do the same thing) to accept only loopback connections, and give them a desktop shortcut that sets up a ssh tunnel back to my own computer. I generate a private key for their computer, append the corresponding public key to the support account's authorized_keys file on my end, and set my end to accept only key-based authentication.

That way, they have the security of knowing that no black hat can possibly connect to their VNC server from outside, and that their friendly tech support person can never snoop on them without their knowledge.

For remote Windows support, the Windows ssh client I use for this is PuTTY, and the desktop shortcut's launcher property looks something like

"C:\Program Files\PuTTY\plink.exe" -ssh -i "%APPDATA%\flabdablet\support.ppk" -N -R 9900:localhost:5900

I use plink.exe rather than putty.exe to set up the ssh session, because sending clicks to a putty.exe window via the same ssh tunnel that putty.exe is itself managing causes a deadlock; this doesn't happen with the console window that opens for plink.exe.

I've been doing things this way for years, and it works for me. But if all you're ever doing is Windows to Windows support and you have no commitment to using open-source tools, you'll probably find LogMeIn a lot less fiddly.

Get rid of AVG. It used to be good, but since about 2009 it's been bloatware. Use Panda Cloud Antivirus instead, and when you install it, turn off the Panda Security Toolbar and Make Yahoo My Default Search Engine options. I personally like it much more than I like Microsoft Security Essentials.

You don't want your family using Internet Explorer. Install Firefox instead, install Adblock Plus in all user profiles, and subscribe them all to EasyPrivacy+EasyList. This will make their browsing more enjoyable and reduce the number of security threats you need to deal with. Hide all the IE launchers.

Your 6 year old niece will probably enjoy TuxPaint.

Install all versions of .Net.

If you're going to set up more than one Windows box, you will want WSUS Offline Update.
posted by flabdablet at 8:43 PM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Link to PuTTY.
posted by flabdablet at 8:46 PM on December 3, 2011

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